Local band, The Leers.
Local lads The Leers have played music together since their teens. Now they’re about to step things up by taking their laidback, beachy sounds to Los Angeles.
Though they were around 8 years old when cassettes called it a day, The Leers — Matt Bidois,
Jacob Buchan, Jack Furniss and James Kippenberger — released their 2016 debut album
Are You Curious on cassette.
“We are aiming for a very niche market who drive cars from the 80s or people who spend loads of time around their grandparents,” says their profile blurb on the site Bandcamp.
“Yeah we did that,” laughs Matt, when we meet at his and drummer James’ Auckland local, Pocket Bar & Kitchen in Grey Lynn, where the singer also works part time. “We have some friends with rundown cars who still have tape players in the stereos and they don’t have any other way to listen
to music,” he explains.
“We got them through [Auckland recording studio] Stebbing, I think they produced a hundred
for us. I think we’ve probably still got 40 of them chilling in a box in our practice room somewhere…” The pair erupt into more laughter. “It sounds silly, thinking about it now,” says James.
“I would have maybe produced 50 in hindsight, not a hundred,” Matt muses, “but it was a cool
thing, I’m still not mad that we did it.”
All four of The Leers, now 27, grew up in Mount Maunganui. They’ve been best mates since the
age of 13, and jamming together for almost as long. They played high school band competition Rockquest from 2006, and came second in the national final in 2009.
“That was quite validating, at that point, and we moved to Auckland based on that, in 2010,”
says Matt. “We got some prize money that we spent on gear, and
we moved up on a whim really, just because we thought Auckland was the place to pursue music.”
He describes the band’s first year in the big smoke as “humbling”. “To be honest,” explains James,
“we didn’t do much as a band in that first year. We were living in this shit apartment, we were uncomfortable, it was hard to get to practice because we had to travel with all our gear...”
“We had a really unproductive year,” agrees Matt. “So we ended up taking a little break — Jacob moved to Australia and Jack moved back down to the Mount.”
When Jacob returned from Australia a year later, the four mates started talking about making music again, then started writing it, and The Leers were back together. “We just started writing and it was easy, like, way easy,” says James. “It was a lot more fun,” says Matt. “I think after that, it taught us that if it’s not really fun and enjoyable, then there’s not that much in it for us.”
With Jacob and Jack now living back in the Bay, when the band feel like playing, James and Matt head down and they meet up in the same shed at Jack’s family home that they’ve jammed in together since their teens. “The same tinny, shit-sounding shed,” laughs James. “We’ve really not done anything to improve that situation... I wonder if it’s contributed to our sound quite a lot?”
“It probably has!” says Matt. “And I think if you can make a song sound good in a tinny-arse
shed, and then you take it to a studio and record it, well it’s only ever going to sound better.
So it’s kind of like a crucible to me. I don’t think that’s why we haven’t changed anything though
— it’s because we’re lazy!”
If playing and recording in an old shed has contributed to The Leers’ unique sound and kept it consistent for more than a decade, what effect has living in a laidback beach community and growing up by the sea had?
“I think it has affected the sound,” says Matt. “I even noticed that I subconsciously end up using
lyrical metaphors about water a lot, which I didn’t click onto until I was writing the lyrics for the
song booklets — I was like, man there are a lot of themes of ocean and water. And we’ve always
kind of liked that beachy sound, with our personal tastes in music.”
“All of us are quite relaxed and we like loose, chill music, maybe it’s a product of living on the coast,” James adds.
From one notoriously laidback beachside locale to a much larger one — the band will travel to
Los Angeles in December 2019 to record what they hope will be an EP at In Flight Music Studios, whose team have worked with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Gwen Stefani. “We’re super pumped!” says Matt.
From the work they’ve already put in with In Flight to the opportunity to record in an LA studio
and play shows in a city known for its music culture — the pair agree it’s both a highlight and
a formative experience for the band.
“For a while we’ve treated this band as a relaxed, kind of hobby-ish thing, where it hasn’t been
too serious,” says Matt. “We’ve tried to tick as many boxes as we can but we haven’t been
a band that’s trying to ‘make it’ — we’ve just been writing songs because we enjoy hanging out
with each other.
“And it’s not until recently — now that we’ve got this offer to fly over to LA — that we’ve hunkered down, thinking now this is on the table, we should try to take things a bit more seriously than
we have in the past,” he says. “Which has been weird because I feel like we’ve usually written music
so slowly, but in the last year we’ve managed to write almost three times as fast as we usually do, once we’ve had something to give us that push.
“But it’s still fun — it’s a little bit more stressful having deadlines and big budgets and recoupables
— but it’s still enjoyable and it’s still with my best mates.”
Story by Josie Steenhart